Icharus

Leaves breathe
The secret deeds
Of daredevils and dreamers,
Leaders, lovers, and liars,
Always climbing higher,
Striving to see past the trees.
They speak
Of a story we’d forgotten,
Locked beyond our
memory,
From an age where men and women lived.
Vivid and vibrant,
Big- and bright-minded,
Defiant of mountains,
They drowned in their daydreams.
Their goal was to climb,
But they couldn’t brave the dry,
Unforgiving elements,
Created and sent as a fence to the sky.
So instead
Of climbing and striving and dying,
They taught themselves to fly.

For my daughter: be wise

Be wise, little girl.
Life is hard,
but it is also sweet.
Stay curious,
and ask the hard questions.
I know you are restless,
so be relentless.
You are searching,
yearning;
I know you feel lost,
aloft,
exhausted by the endless riposte,
but I hope that you know
you’re not alone.
Little sparrow, I know,
but follow the sun,
and he’ll guide you home.
Do not despond,
for to Christ you belong
and that makes you strong.
so shake the earth,
climb a mountain
break a wall
write a song
cross a sea
tell a story
for words
are
powerful.
Little girl, listen to mine.
The trees are a sign:
stay grounded,
fireproof
entwined with the vine
and rooted in truth.
Be wise.
Remind yourself of the light
and make it a habit to shine.
Take hold of your passion;
unfasten
the weights that you carry
and burn bright–
like a phoenix rising from ash and gray,
colors flashing, unafraid.
But I know,
some days you don’t feel that way.
You feel lost and ashamed
You question your name
You long for what’s safe
Too tired to be brave
Lost in a haze
And you’re slipping away
Caught in the chase
Trapped in the maze
But when you’re ready to break,
pray.
Clear the stage and seek out grace.
Call his name and know you’re safe.
He doesn’t let go–
so you can.
He won’t let you fall,
so follow the call of the wind
to the edge of the limb.
Have faith.
Build your house on the rock,
and answer his knock.
Smile in the face of challenge,
unfazed, unenslaved
unscathed by the blaze.
Embrace the flames that burn the chaff away.
Don’t hide or try to ride the fence
but rather ignite.
You may be a candle or you may be a star
but whatever you do and wherever you are,
Be wise.
Strive toward the light and delight in what’s right.
You have been baptized
in sunrise.
Don’t contrive to be like
what surrounds you.
Remember what grounds you.
You are strong
and brave
and beautiful.
Seek the truth relentlessly,
unpretentiously and honestly.
Stay real.
Don’t be afraid to feel.
Open your eyes
and breathe, just once in a while.
Smile often.
You’d be surprised by the difference it makes
to be kind.
Be wise.
Never lose your wonder.
Live unencumbered,
for this is not your home.
Don’t be so afraid to blunder
that you forget to live.
See the world
as an adventure and exploration
And see its people
as a starlit generation.
Tell their stories
and reflect his glory.
Recognize,
and be wise.
Never stop learning,
and be faithful in the little things.
May you send forth springs
of joy.
Be the everyday kind of brave.
That is what makes a path-maker
culture-shaper
world-shaker
wall-breaker
change-creator.
Be bright
See with different eyes
Be kind, and little sparrow,
you will fly.
Be wise.

The Anglerfish

The anglerfish, aka Lophiiformes, are an order of bony fish that dwell in the deep, empty reaches of the ocean. Both prey and others of their own kind are few and far between.

Female Lophiiformes are characterized by their unique method of predation, in which a fleshy growth from the anglerfish’s head, called an esca, acts as a lure. The luminescence of the esca, which draws its prey from the dark and turbulent depths, comes from a bacteria that dwells in and around the esca and exists in a symbiotic relationship with the anglerfish. In addition to luring prey, the glow of the esca also serves to attract the attention of males during mating season.

Some deep-sea anglerfish also employ a unique (and slightly disturbing) method of reproduction. It was discovered when scientists first began capturing anglerfish of the ceratioid variety, and they found that all the specimens they received were female. They also noticed that almost all of them had what appeared to be smaller parasites attached to them. These “parasites” turned out to be the male anglerfish.

Ceratioids rely on parabiotic reproduction, meaning that free-living males never fully mature until they parasitize a female. Some species even experience stunted growth of certain glands, which prevents feeding, meaning that if they are slow to find a mate, they are quick to die.

The depths of the ocean are a battleground for these species, a constant struggle for survival. In the turbulent waters, life is rare, sustenance is hard to find, and the darkness is overwhelming.

Sounds like someplace else I know.

Psalm 82:5 says, “They wander about in darkness, while the whole world is shaken to the core.” Proverbs 2:13 says, “These men turn from the right way to walk down dark paths.” Finally, Ephesians 6:12 tells us, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Our world is like the depths of the ocean–full of darkness with no way to see, a spiritual battleground, a struggle for survival, turbulent and chaotic.

But, that is not the end of the story. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world; whoever knows me will never walk in darkness.” 2 Corinthians 10:4 says, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.” John 1:5 says more simply, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

More than that, “because of God’s tender mercies, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death (Luke 1:78-79).” He gives this light to us, so that we are “more than conquerors” through Christ. Like the anglerfish, the light we hold is not our own. It comes from God. And like the anglerfish, others are drawn to this light. But this light is not one that leads to destruction, but to life.

Like the anglerfish, we may feel alone, adrift in a massive, impenetrable sea. But like the anglerfish, we, indeed, are not alone. “You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world (I John 4:4).” Much as the male anglerfish depends upon its mate for survival, we depend on God. John 15:5 says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” It is from God that we receive our light and our life; apart from him, we can do nothing.

One of my favorite moments of Jesus interacting with his disciples occurs shortly after Jesus feeds the five thousand. There were huge crowds following him after that event, hungry for more, but as time passes, they begin to disperse. They heard more of Jesus’ teaching, and realized that this teaching wasn’t a philosophy that just gave out free food, this was something much bigger. Much harder. And they begin to fall away. Even the disciples said, “This is a hard teaching; who can listen to it?” Eventually, the Twelve are the only ones left. And then Jesus says, “Do you want to go away as well?” And Peter–always the first to speak–asks the simple question: “Lord, to whom shall we go?” There is no one, nowhere else that provides what Christ provides: life.

If you get discouraged by the darkness around you, remember the anglerfish. She isn’t pretty (the image above is a cartoon representation, safe for children. This is the real deal) but she reminds us that we have a light that is not our own. Let it draw you in, deeper and deeper, into dependence on him.

Blessings!
Bre

 

On joy

16982653Joy is literally my middle name.

How ironic.

Some days, it seems all I do is grumble or complain. I quarrel and I snap back at the slightest provocation and I can’t control my tone of voice. Quick to anger, quick to speak, but slow to listen.

Sound familiar?

I’ll never forget how one of my friends laughed when someone asked her why she was so happy all the time. “Because I have Jesus in my heart!” she exclaimed, eyes shining. You could see it, too.

But I have Jesus in my heart, too, and last time I checked, “happy all the time” was not a part of my daily experience.It wasn’t until later in my life that I began to see the difference between happiness and joy. It’s a lesson I’m still learning, in fact.

Because “happy” isn’t something you can be all the time–but joy is. Happy is something you feel; joy is something you choose. Happiness is an emotion; joy is an attitude. Happiness is an experience; joy is an outlook. Happiness depends on circumstances; joy exists regardless and in spite of them. Happiness is earth-bound; joy is heaven-found. A lot of lives have taken a turn for the worse because of confusion between the two.

Righto, but that still doesn’t answer the main question: how can I get me some?

As I’ve been writing this, a number of old children’s songs have been running through my head:

“I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart! Where? Down in my heart! Where? Down in my heart! I’ve got that joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart! Where? Down in my heart to stay!

Or, how about this one?

Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

And then, there’s this one:

The fruit of the Spirit is love-joy-peace, patience-kindness-goodness-faithfulness, gentleness and self conro-o-ol! Love-joy-peace, patience-kindness-goodness-faithfulness, gentleness and self control!

Oh wait, that’s a Bible verse too, isn’t it? “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Joy is the fruit of the Spirit. It is the product of having Jesus dwelling inside you.

*Raises hand* “But wait, Miss Bre, didn’t you just go in a circle? Didn’t you just say that even though you have Jesus in your heart, you don’t always feel joyful?”

*Pats head fondly* Why yes, that’s true, young child. But what I mean is…oh wait. that’s a good point.

Look, here’s the thing. Living life God’s way isn’t easy–otherwise everyone would be doing it, and my friend Amanda who is happy joyful all the time wouldn’t have sparked any comment, ’cause we’d all be walking around turning the other cheek until we were literally spinning in circles. But the product of choosing the narrow gate instead of the broad is this: joy. Love. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Joy.

You ever feel conflicted? Like you want to do what’s right, but you just can’t help yourself? Well, you’re in good company; so did Paul. Romans 7 says, “I do not understand what I do. For I do not do what I want to do, but I do the thing I hate….Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” 

(Oh look, I’ve found something in common between me and the greatest missionary of the New Testament! This is a good sign!)

There’s a reason for this. It’s that there’s actually two natures dwelling inside you. A sin nature, born at the Fall, and, if you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, the actual Spirit of the living God. And believe it or not, every Christian has exactly the same measure of this Spirit as another. There’s enough to go around. You have it just as much as me or Paul or Corrie ten Boom or the person sitting in the pew beside you. The only difference is how much you choose to listen.

Many people are familiar with the old Native American story about the two wolves in a fight, and the famous saying: “The one who wins is the one you feed.” If we all have the Spirit of God living inside us (something not Abraham nor Moses nor Elijah nor any of the other heroes of the O.T. had access to, by the way) then the determinant of our joy is this: how much we feed it, and how much we choose to listen.

“The thief comes to steal and kill and destroy, but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the fullest (John 10:10).” The thief wants to steal, kill, and destroy your joy. Your peace. Your patience. I’m ashamed to say that he often succeeds. He lies and tricks us into chasing happiness instead of joy, and we build up treasures on earth rather than recognizing that this is not our home; we’re only passing through.

So the source of joy? I guess we’re back at the original answer: Jesus. But it doesn’t come from a passive, one-time decision; it comes from a lifestyle where you’re feeding your soul with truth and grace, and choosing to focus on the real thing instead of chasing shadows.

May you be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger. May you learn kindness, and patience, and joy.

Blessings!
Bre

For my daughter: be brave

Be brave, little girl.
Life is hard
but it is also sweet.
You could rock this world.
Some days, I know, you feel weak,
but you, my girl, are a nevertheless.
These days are the ones
that prove you are strong
so shake the earth
climb a mountain
break a wall
write a song
cross a sea
tell a story
for words
are
powerful.
Little girl, listen to mine.
Treasure the sunrise
and fear not the night,
for night
is the only time
we can see the stars shine.
A million miles away,
they burn with a fury
we can’t always see,
but they’re at their brightest when the sky is darkest so
I know
You will be afraid
You may feel ashamed
Your heart, it will break
You’ll lose what felt safe
And you’ll grow tired of the days
upon days
lived in a haze
You’ll keep trying to chase
what you wanted to say
But when you can’t find your way
be brave
because you’ll be surprised
by grace.
That’s the best thing about it–
it’s surprising.
Bare your colors to the world
fearless, unashamed,
exuberant in becoming.
Let loose your mind
and release your grasp
on all that holds you still behind
and fly.
Don’t be afraid of impossible falls or unscalable walls
You have the gall to withstand the squall
so stand tall!
Leap into the mountain air
Feel the feathers in your hair
Brush the treetops with your fingertips and
hold the dewdrops, golden-kissed
and live.
Feel the fullness of creation and
be whole,
realizing the beauty of it all.
Be a star amid the dark
and be brave,
for there will come a day
when all of this will fade
and I want you to be glad
that you made
a difference.
Be different, and unashamed.
Become the truest version of yourself
and learn to be a path-maker
culture-shaper
world-shaker
wall-breaker
change-creator.
It’s in the small things,
the little things in the quiet place.
For the silent people, you will speak,
And you will whisper in their ears:
Be brave.